Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday Stuff

Chances are you will hear very little from me during the coming week as it is floors and bathtub week!  I don't know how much internet access I will have unless I borrow the hubby's laptop.  The nephew arrives this afternoon and his mom (my fantastic SIL) is turning right around and heading back up to Greensboro.  She promises that when she comes back to pick him up she will bring our neice and they will spend a couple of days...

Apparently the $190 worth of food I bought yesterday will not be enough as Angie says that Spence eats a lot.  I am out of practice on feeding boys, must channel my much younger self when I lived with the brothers.  We used to joke that the youngest one had two hollow legs, he was so skinny but was like a human vacumm cleaner and ate everything in site.

I was reading one of the many blogs I follow and there was a picture of Talulah May with a bindi in her forehead (I promise to insert the name of the blog later once I have time to go back and get it, it is a great one and if you don't follow it take a look).  Yes it is a dog and yes she sat long enough to 1.  have the bindi placed on her and 2. have her picture taken.  This brought back a memory of a dog we had a number of years ago and the youngest daughter.

The dog was Rusty (a fine name for a female golden mix) she was a great dog and quite the hunter.  We were always well supplied with dead mice, squirrels and once even skunks (a whole seperate smelly story).  I arrived home from work one night and noticed that most of Rusty's tail feathers were missing, at that point I glanced at her forehead which had zig zags cut into the entire thing.  I glanced at the guilty party (the youngest daughter) and asked her why she had done this to the dog to which she replied "because she let me". 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

JuJu (and Earth Wind and Fire)

Last night was the EWF concert and it was fantastic!  Even better though was getting to meet JuJu and Sir!  They are even nicer in person than on line!

JuJu is the one with the blonde hair.  Thanks for taking the picture Sir!

One fuzzy shot of the band

Another of the same, they were absolutely fantastic and haven't changed in th 41 years they have been together!

I have one question though, they did all this music that I knew the words to  and sang off key with and danced too..why then do I have the son "Sweet Caroline" by the opening band stuck in my head this morning?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In A Tizzy

I am in a tizzy!  Michael's nephew Spencer is arriving on Saturday to spend the summer with us and for some reason  I am worried about feeding him.  When you only cook for two and suddenly this 6'5" person is dropped in the middle what exactly do you do about food?

When you add a new baby you have time to ease yourself into this, if you have a house guest for a few days you can handle it, especially if they are self entertaining, car driving people.  If you have a kid for the summer every rule feels like it goes out the window.

Will I have to start cooking white starches?  How much food will I have to get in the house?  What in the world will he eat for lunch and breakfast (hopefully he like oatmeal a lot).  What are we going to do with him while we are at work?????

On top of all this we have to move out of our place for a week so the landlord can re glaze the bathtub and put the new floors in the two bedrooms.  We will be staying with a friend who lives down the street and suffer living on the Stono River for a week (poor us).  Michael, myself, Bear the Dog and Spencer.  Hopefully Bear decides against chasing the cats which is what he did the last time I brought him down there. 

Many hours later after starting this particular blog I am sitting here somewhat calmer.  I will make lasagna for dinner on Saturday (I think) since my fantastic Sister in Law better be spending the night rather than driving all the way back to Greensboro NC, I have invited the youngest daughter and boyfriend for dinner so they can meet their extended family.  My cookbooks are packed, the bookshelf put away, desk is cleaned off, I went through my shoe collection and either threw out or donated a bunch (the ones I could part with) but best of all tonight is the Earth Wind and Fire concert and I will be meeting JuJu!  Thankfully she is the sensible one and thought of texting when we get there so we can catch up.  I promise at least one picture tomorrow!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lemon Chiffon Pie and the Church Barbecue

There is nothing like a church barbecue, especially if you are Episcopal and there is wine and beer involved!  We had our annual get together yesterday at Folly Beach and a good time was had by all despite the fact that it was in the 90's.  There is a die hard group that puts this together every year and I thank God for them, they happen to be great people too which makes it even better!  Michael and I didn't get out there as early as we planned but still way ahead of the rest and were able to enjoy time with some of our dearest friends.

Our friends Lee, Betsy, Missy and Ted!

The worlds most delicious Tomato Pie!  Perhaps I will track down the cook and have her blog about it!

My Mothers Lemon Chiffon Pie (yes you can have the recipe)

And Bear just because he needed his picture taken!

So when I was a kid my mom used to make this dessert once in a while and I absolutely adore it!  Its not hard to make you just need to have time, a lot of people to serve it to and it does not work outdoors if it is really really hot out (learned that one yesterday).

Lemon Chiffon Pie

2 boxes lemon Jello
2 cans evaporated milk
1 package sugar wafers
1 tablespoon sugar

Make the jello substituting the juice of one lemon for the equal amount of cold water, put in the fridge until just starting to set.  While making the jello, put the evaporated milk in the freezer, you want it just ready to freeze up. 

When these two things happen put the milk in the bowl and whip until it comes to soft peaks, stir in the sugar and than add the jello mixing well.

Crumble the sugar wafers in the bottom of a 9 x 12 deep toss away aluminum pan.  Pour mixture over it and set in the fridge until set. I crumbled up more sugar wafers on the top of it.

Two things I discovered when making this recipe.  The sugar wafer packages are not as big as before and I used 1 and a half packages and...oddly enough I think the evaporated milk containers are larger hence the fact that you need to make sure you have a LARGE mixing bowl and a deep dish for it to go in!  I suspect it would work well with just about any flavor of jello and you could add fruit to it (ours was all gone so none for me).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thai Basil Fried Rice

Thai Basil Fried Rice (picture from Shiok - Chef's Notes: How to make great fried rice)

Somewhere along the line in this eating healthy again endeavor, the side dishes with dinner became more important than the protein.  Perhaps it's the fact that we are grilling often or it could be that having cut out the white potatoes, white pasta and the like that the vegetables now play a leading role in our meals. 

What brings this to mind is the past Friday, we had spent it at the beach lazing away, sort of frolicking in the water but mostly just relaxing and people watching.  I really didn't feel like cooking when we got home but we must eat, salmon was on the menu that night but what to serve with it?  There are vegetables galore in the fridge and Michael asked for squash so that was a done deal but what to have with it?  Surely that would not be enough to satisfy the two of us.

I had been thinking about fried rice for a while and had a bag of left over brown jasmine rice in the freezer.  There is always too much when I cook it so the unused portion goes into a bag and is popped in the freezer for later use, this works out great for me since the dern rice takes almost an hour to cook.  I just pull it out open the freezer bag and pop it in the microwave for about 5 minutes, viola rice!

Off to the Internet with the search words fried rice recipe and I was not disappointed!  I found the site Shiok - Chef's Notes which was connected to a restaurant that no longer is open.  The recipe I found was for Thai Basil Fried Rice and could not be easier!  I of course made a few adjustments and came up with my own version.  Two important notes about making this dish:

1.  You cannot use fresh, just cooked rice as according to the site it will turn into a big mushy mess!
2.  When you add the garlic and chili paste stand back!  The oil is extremely hot and splatters absolutely everywhere!!!

Thai Basil Fried Rice

2 cups cooked rice (we used brown jasmine)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon garlic chili paste (I got mine at World Market and little bit goes a long way)
3/4 cup green bell pepper cut in 1/2" squares
1 large onion cut in 1/2" squares
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 pinches sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 handful fresh hand torn sweet basil

On medium high, heat wok until almost smoking, add the oil (you may want to remove the wok before doing this depending on how much of a fire chicken you are).  Remove wok from heat source (if you haven't already) add the garlic and chili paste stirring for 10 seconds.  Add the peppers and onion place back on medium high heat adding a little bit of salt and the black pepper.  Toss and stir for 30 seconds, add rice and stir until each little piece of rice is covered in oil, add the sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil than give it a good stir.  Add the basil and allow to cook for one more minute stirring all the while. 

The recipe called for the addition of shrimp and they go in when you add the peppers and onions, it was wonderful without it!  I had always wondered how the vegetables were cooked but still tasted so fresh when we eat Chinese food and this wok method was it.  You absolutely must use a hot wok and add the oil after it is heated up.  We had this with some grilled salmon and stuffed zucchini, Michael had seconds of the rice (the ultimate sign of something good) and the left overs went with me for lunch yesterday.  Probably best of all other than the chopping (which trust me nothing has to be measured) the whole thing takes about 5 minutes to put together!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Too Much Stuff

You just don't know how much stuff you have until you have to move it.  Our landlord is coming in the week after next to put down new laminate flooring in the two bedrooms and re glaze the tub so we are going to have to 1.  Move everything out of the bedroom including what is on the floor in the closet and 2.  Clear out the office/Michael's clothes room (he is a clothes horse so there is a bit of work to do there).

On top of that Michael's nephew is arriving on the 30th of June to spend a month or so with us.  He is a great kid/grown up and should be interesting having him here, all 6'5"of him!  I suspect we will be putting him to work while he is visiting.  Right now we are trying to find a friend to stay with who will take all three of us plus....Bear.  Michael feels strongly that he has a solution worked out and I will leave it at that.

The bedroom shouldn't be too bad other than my ever growing collection of shoes, I think it's time to edit them down.  When Michael and I met there were I think 4 pairs in my entire collection and one of those was flip flops.  I have no idea how many there are now, every time we make a trip to the thrift store I seem to come home with another pair.  It is amazing how many folks wear a pair once or twice and then donate them.

The office is a different story...the room is 9' x 10' and contains:
1.  Michael's dresser
2.  Bears dog bed and toy basket
3.  My computer desk
4.  A 4 ft tall plastic storage thingee
5.  Clothes rack for drying Michael's dress shirts and jeans on
6.  A bookcase containing allllllll the cookbooks the two of us own
5.  Michael's desk with bookcase on top of it
7.  My grandparents secretary desk

Add to that lots and lots of stuff including a pane of glass for the top of a table that the hubby found sitting on the side of the road, the crutches from when I sprained my ankle a few years back and my drawing portfolio. 

I am thinking of starting to haul some of this stuff out to the storage shed (which is full of more stuff) and editing through a good portion of it. 

To think that when I left my house and moved in on my own I brought hardly anything, where did all this stuff come from??  Maybe its reproducing while we are at work under Bear's watchful, if sleepy, eyes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Michael's Father's Day

I have one of those husbands who is in perpetual motion, he is always either doing something or to getting ready to !  On his birthday and on Father's Day I attempt to make him sit still and enjoy the day, no chores, not ironing shirts, cleaning the car, mowing the lawn and most importantly NO SELLING REAL ESTATE!!!  I let him decide what he wants to do (sort of) with the day and then I make the arrangements and we go from there. 

This past Sunday he decided he wanted to have a light breakfast, read the paper, go to church and than go out to brunch.  We also had a Slow Foods potluck to go to at Crosby's Dock on Folly Road.

Brunch was okay, the best part being that we were together and one of the couples that we are close friends with joined us.  I have been at the place we had brunch many times before in my previous life and always remembered the food being great, this time it was just okay.  I have been wondering if that is because my taste buds weren't fully awakened yet, I had not started on this exciting food journey.  So we left very full and went for a very short stroll down town where we discovered we were wearing way to many clothes to be walking around and headed home for a nap and some golf on TV.

I have known about the potluck for many weeks and did my usual debating about what I would bring.  Last year was a Quinoa salad which everyone ate (boy that feels good when you bring home no leftovers!).  I thought about bringing the same thing this year but for some reason decided against it.  I am glad I did as there were (no exaggeration) 5 Quinoa salads.  You may remember that I bought 3 and a half pounds of sweet potatoes at The Vegetable Bin on Friday, yes me the one who can never make up her mind until the last minute had decided a full two days ahead that we would bring a sweet potato salad.  All I had to do was head to the Internet and sort through the roughly 2 million recipes and decide what truly sounded appetizing.

I finally stumbled upon this recipe from The New York Times, it was gone in record time with people going back for seconds!  If and when I make it the next time I will probably not roast all the red onion and just cook half instead adding the rest raw to give the salad more crunch.  The only other change I made was to add some cayenne pepper to the dressing.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad With Black Beans and Chili Dressing

4 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 large red onion, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh hot chili, like jalapeno
1 clove garlic, peeled
Juice of 2 limes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1.  Heat oven to 4oo degrees.  Put sweet potatoes and onions on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, toss to coat and spread out in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast turning occasionally, until potatoes begin to brown on corners and are just tender inside, 30 to 40 minutes.  Remove from oven.

2.  Put chile's in a blender with garlic, lime juice, remaining olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Process until blended.

3.  Put warm vegetables in a large bowl with beans and bell pepper; toss with dressing and cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a day.

I think what makes this salad tasty is the fact that it has so many wonderful flavors going for it.  When we were driving home Michael made the comment that so very much of the food was bland.  I sometimes think that people forget that you have to use spices and herbs to awaken the food, that just because it is good for you doesn't mean it doesn't still need to taste good!  That is not to say there weren't many taste treats there that were not delicious and some of the recipes I will be trying to figure out!  As a matter of fact Dena made an unforgetable Peach Upside Down cake, when I get it I will definetly share it with you!

In the meantime the weather was gorgeous, the views were wonderful and we made some new friends!

Our dear friend Dena in the upper right hand corner and me in the upper left.  The three ladies we sat with and laughed so hard my sides hurt.  I am hoping to meet them again somewhere since I didn't get their information.  

Friday, June 15, 2012


I didn't plan on writing two blogs today but let's just throw caution to the wind and do it!

Today was grocery shopping day, we didn't need that much since I did a major shop after we got back from vacation and to be honest I still have quite a bit left so today was just a small fill in and fresh veggies.  It's warm here so for the first time ever I put the big cooler in the car with the ice packs and off I went.  First stop was Harris Teeter where list in hand (very very important) I picked up what we needed (sort of).  You know how hard it is to not buy a super bargain and I debated with myself before deciding to take advantage of the buy 2 get 3 free ice cream deal.  So now that the freezer is once again packed to absolute capacity with ice cream we just have to resist eating it all!

Stop two was my favoritist place The Vegetable Bin, they have in almost entirely local produce right now and there is a board listing what is from here!

Today's plethora of fresh fruit and veggies!

So for  27.66 we now have:
1.    2 ears of local white corn
2.    Scallions
3.    button mushrooms
4.    leeks
4.    white onions
5.    avocado
6.    3 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes
7.    2 jalapenos
8.    Bartlett pears
9.    eggplant
10.  red onion
11.  plums
12.  yellow squash
13.  red pepper
14. peaches
15. John's Island tomatoes
16. garlic
17. cilantro
18. pint of blueberries

How I Cook

Unless we are having company over I rarely know exactly what I am making for supper any given night.  I might have an idea of what the protein will be but that's as far as it gets.  We kind of have a routine here, I ask Michael what he feels like for supper and he asks me what we have.  The list usually goes chicken or some type (or at the moment types) of fish as there is rarely any type of red meat in the freezer of death.

Armed with the protein of choice I make a cursory glance in the vegetable rotters (also known as drawers but that is a whole different blog) and see what is still edible then off to the Internet I go. 

If you type in the ingredients you have (the other night it was talapia and black beans) you get about a million recipes, some of them good some of them not so good (as was the case Wednesday).  I suspect it wasn't that Wednesday wasn't so good it was more that it didn't taste as I expected, you know how you can usually get an idea of how something is going to turn out. 

So armed with the recipe off I go to the kitchen to adjust it!  For the life of me unless I am baking good enough is not good enough for me.  In the past year or so I have learned that you are usually okay leaving things out of recipes if you don't have them or you can substitute something else.  That was a big step for me...if someone put the recipe out there, that must be the way you have to make it!  No more of that! 

This method of course does not always work, baked macaroni and cheese is a case in point.  My mother never made it and I swore that scrawny women from New York could not make it.  Michael's family always got a chuckle out of the fact that I was baked mac and cheese impaired especially since he so often tells them that I am the only skinny cook he trusts!  I would take the seemingly easy recipe and make adjustments.  Poor guy would try it eat it and tell me it was tasty but leftovers tell the truth, that is the real honest truth of how something tastes.  Finally earlier this year I found a recipe (which I have since lost) stuck to the letter of it and made an amazing creamy, cheesy baked mac.  He said it was almost as good as his Moms!

Another thing I have learned is to not shy away from what appear to be long lists of things that go into recipes.  It was in the past that if a recipe had more than 5 or 6 ingredients there was no way I was going to make it.  The same with directions, if they went onto a second page they were out!  Once I started really reading the directions and the ingredients I discovered that often they were spices and that the directions often contained and awful lot of extra words!  Now this too can get me into trouble as I think I know what it says and I will skip a step or do it out of order.  Sometimes this works sometimes...well you know!

So how do you decide what you are cooking?  Do you plan out the whole week ahead (no way I could ever do that) or are you a fly by night cook?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Easy Appetizer

Part of this past weekend included food (imagine that!).  Saturday evening we drove up to the lake to celebrate a friends 50th birthday and spend the night.  It's an hour each way so we do not get to visit with them much but we love to see them and spend time with them.  Somehow we will need to figure out how to get them to drive down here to the big city! 

We can never go anywhere empty handed but most of my recipes are not the kind of food that gets eaten up there.  It's always good, wholesome down home cooking.  There was bbq, potato salad, baked get the picture.  Of course I waited unti the last minute to make something and to be honest was kind of stuck for an idea.  I thought back to my old life and things I used to make then....and here is one.  It is an easy appetizer and everyone seems to enjoy it!  It came from my Cooking Club of America membership.

Salami Roll-Ups

1 lb salami, sliced thin
1 8 oz package cream cheese
2 tablespoons horseradish (prepared)

Mix the cream cheese and horseradish together.  Spread on the slices of salami and roll.

Thats it, nothing else to it!

Catching Up!

Phew, made it through the weekend!!! Sometimes our social life gets a bit hectic and this past few days has been one of those times.  It is going to continue for a few days so if you don't hear from me don't panic.  I am just running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Friday was a day off work for both Michael and I (well sort of for me, I did a 2 hour training class online about Harassment) after that it was time to join my hubby outside and contribute to the yard care.  He mowed the lawn and worked on his front planter beds.  A friend from work had given him a ton of clippings, plants and bulbs last year and he has certainly made the most of them.  It was time to transplant some of them from pots into the ground.  We have actually been trying to plant as little in the ground as possible since we are renting and want to take many of these plants when we buy our own place. 

I worked in the back garden, or what used to be the back garden.  Since we are on a tidal marsh there is a lot of salt water to deal with.  In the past few weeks we have had a few tropical storm scares, heavy rain and lunar high tides.  This has turned the back corner into a wet mess and my rosemary bush has paid the price.  That of course could have also been because I have done absolutely nothing back there this year and the bed was full of weeds.  I had to take the trimmers back there to cut them back since for some unknown reason they refuse to be pulled out of the ground.  Three hours later this is what was left.....gone is my beautiful rosemary bush but we are hoping that the trim and subsequent transplanting of some life pieces to once again have plenty to share!

What is left of the rosemary bush after a pretty severe hair cut!  The garlic chives seem to thrive on the salt water and weeds however!

The ground when it is not wet!  This makes a fun place to play when the yard is flooded and you are a golden!

The backyard on the other side of the fence!  I love this tree even though it is dead, the birds hang out on it and the woodpecker has many hours of pecking enjoyment!

Cherry tomatoes galore!

He had to have his picture taken!

Some of the larger tomatoes, they are not as big as they look but are they ever tasty!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Something We Do For Free!

Every year Charleston has this fabulous arts festival.  There is opera, ballet, modern dance, plays, art and a ton of concerts.  Michael learned about ushering from one of our friends about 5 years ago and has been doing it ever since.  I thought that my work schedule wouldn't allow it until I figured out it would and this is my third year ushering Spoleto.

Most cities have ushering positions available all you need to do is ask.  We are volunteers who take tickets and help folks find their seats, that's all there is to it and you get to see the show for FREE!!!!!

This year I got to pick out the shows we worked (not really) and this is what we have seen.

Cecile Salvant

This young lady is absolutely amazing, she has such a soulful voice and is only 24 years old (I think).

Jake Shimabukuro
I didn't have any idea you could do such amazing things with a Ukulele

k.d. Lang
Who just blew the roof off the Gaillard Auditorium

We meet tons of interesting people, have a great time and get to experience things we wouldn't otherwise.  Just be prepared for the elderly lady seated in row Z (yes there is a row z at the Gaillard and it is a long hike up to that seat)!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Different Eating Habits

When I was married the first time my husband only ate three hot vegetables (not to be confused with lettuce or tomatoes) and they were peas, string beans and corn.  Life was kind of boring but it was easy to shop since I didn't need to really think about what we were eating and he was not an adventurous eater.

Staples in our diet included spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf and the like.  Onions were forbidden (or so he thought) since he was supposedly allergic to them.  Spices were few beyond salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Mushrooms never entered our house and broccoli and cauliflower were only eaten after being slathered in cheese or cream sauce.

I was raised in a house where you eat what is put on your plate, if you didn't you had it for breakfast the next day.  He was raised in a house where his mother made hamburgers for him almost every night to get him to eat.

Our daughters grew up eating this way, not the way I wanted them to eat but that was how we did it.  Somewhere along the line our eldest daughter J decided to become a vegetarian.  She was the oddest vegetarian for a couple of reasons, the first being that she didn't eat vegetables the second being that pepperoni pizza rolls were allowed in the version she had created.

Many years later both the daughters enjoy cooking and more importantly trying new things.  Elizabeth is willing to always try new and exciting foods and is willing to try almost anything, J has not had meat in I don't know how many years and now seeks out vegetables and was a vegan for a bit.  I don't know how she feel about the pizza rolls but if they are vegetarian I'm thinking she would be all over them.

Last I heard the three vegetable man had grown to eat some different vegetables and even likes mushrooms.  I am just happy to have the husband I have now who is my guinea pig on all the experiments I try and seems to enjoy all our new foods.